FAQ: Melone Redevelopment – Quarry North

Published September 21, 2018 | Select Board | Updated November 19, 2018 | Automatically Archived on 12/20/2018

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What is the Melone property?

The Melone property is a 46.6 acre parcel located on Route 117, North Road, of which 16.4 acres of the property are located in the Town of Concord. The Town acquired this property in 1992 and has operated a gravel operation on the parcel since the 1990s. Approximately 36.7 acres are included in the RFP.

How is Sudbury Station related to Melone?

The Sudbury Station developer has offered to move its development from the Town Center to the Melone Property on Route 117, end the litigation and enter into negotiations for a development agreement. The developer would also pay the Town an additional $1 Million and transfer the approximately 40-acre Town Center site to the Town. The Sudbury Station developer proposes to construct a development at the Melone property, to be called Quarry North.

The Sudbury Center development will be heard by the Housing Appeals Committee in November. There is no opportunity to negotiate mitigation for Sudbury Center. There is no opportunity to reduce the number of units at Sudbury Center. If the HAC approves Sudbury Station, then all 250 units will be approved with no mitigation.

What incentive does the developer have to negotiate to move the Sudbury Station development from Town Center to Route 117?

To put an end to the lengthy and litigious HAC process, end related litigation, begin the development sooner and establish a positive relationship with the Town.

Is this being rushed?

No, this process has not been rushed, and time is of the essence. The question of what to do with Melone has been contemplated for a long time, and the Town has engaged the public in numerous meetings regarding the topic. After numerous public discussions, the Board of Selectmen issued a Request for Proposals in March 2018. Three proposals were submitted by the July 2 deadline. The Board of Selectmen held multiple public meetings, a public hearing and solicited input from all Town boards and departments. Every single board and department that provided comments to the Board recommended the Quarry North proposal.

The Board also directed the Town Manager and the Town’s Chief Financial Officer to conduct a financial assessment of the three proposals. This financial analysis demonstrated that the Quarry North proposal would be of far greater financial benefit to the Town

Under state bidding laws, the Board of Selectmen was required to select one of the proposals (or reject them all) by October. Based upon the unanimous support for the Quarry North proposal by Town boards and departments, the financial assessment performed by the Town Manager and Chief Financial Officer, and the public support for the proposal articulated during the public hearing, the Board of Selectmen voted on September 11 to select the Quarry North proposal.

This is the only opportunity the Town has to trade an extremely problematic development on 40 acres of wooded land in the Town Center (one that is likely to be approved by the state Housing Appeals Committee) for a development of a former gravel pit on the edge of Town, the impacts of which can be addressed through negotiated mitigation. If the Housing Appeals Committee issues a decision in favor of the Sudbury Station project after its hearing in November, then the incentive to move this development to the Melone location is greatly reduced. If we do not make the decision to move forward with Quarry North before the hearing on Sudbury Station, we risk losing the opportunity to move this development to Melone.

What has been the process so far?

As noted above, the Town of Sudbury has been conducting studies and discussing the future of the Melone property since 2007. After a long public process including a charette-style focus group, a townwide online survey, a series of public meetings, environmental reviews and public forums, a request for proposals for disposition of the Melone property was issued in March 2018. In July, the Town received three bids: Quarry North, EDF Renewables and Cavicchios. The Board did an initial ranking of the proposals and then interviewed all three proponents. The Board held a public hearing, and solicited comments from committees, commissions and department heads. The Board then updated their rankings based on the new information received. Due to state law governing the public procurement process, the Board had 120 days from the opening of the RFP to either award the contract or reject all the bids. On September 11, the Board made the decision to award the contract to Quarry North pending successful negotiation of a development agreement, Town Meeting vote, successful acquisition of the Water District property, a disposition vote by the Board and successful acquisition of state and local permits.

Why do the Selectmen think Melone is a better location than Town Center?

We have no opportunity to negotiate any mitigation for Sudbury Station in Town Center. The Selectmen heard from numerous professionals including many town departments, department heads and committees. The Melone location is deemed to be a safer location and a better location to handle this development than Town Center. Town Center already has an intelligent light and some slip lanes for turning. Town Center traffic already gets backed up on Concord Road in both directions, route 27 both directions, Hudson road, Peakham Road, Old Lancaster, Plympton, Morse, Goodman’s Hill and Union Ave. Sudbury Station would make it much worse and the traffic professionals advised there was not much we could do about it since it is such a congested area with so many tributaries.

Route 117 lacks many of the traffic mitigation measures that already exist in Town Center, which means there is room for improvement. These improvements could be included in the development agreement. Improvements could include mitigation like slip lanes, lane widening and smart traffic controls, as well as pedestrian safety and access measures. This mitigation could be negotiated during the development agreement process and funded by the developer.

The 40 acres of pristine wooded land in Sudbury Town Center is considered to be of much higher value to the town than the Melone property, which is an empty gravel pit, in a government regulated contamination clean up zone.

The Town of Sudbury could put the Town Center property to great use for fields, passive recreation, rail trail parking, rail trail park with pavilion, rail trail rest rooms, conservation uses, a nature park with walking trails connecting Town Center to Featherland park. There are many uses that the Town could use the Town Center land for and the Planning Board is in process of creating a Town Master Plan and Open Space Plan and the uses for this land could be included in that plan.

How will we pay for the impact to schools? Has any financial analysis been done?

Yes, the net present value financial analysis has been completed on the project as proposed and is on the Town website on the Melone page. The anticipated real estate tax revenues over the next 25 years are over $50M and the anticipated excise taxes are over $3M. In addition, the Town will receive a $1 Million payment, the 40 acres in Town Center, and other mitigation to be negotiated in the development agreement. After all infrastructure, public safety and education expenses are accounted for (and without even considering other mitigation that may be negotiated), the Quarry North development yields a net present value of $17M to the Town of Sudbury.

It is also important to remember that the impact to the schools will be roughly the same whether the development is in Sudbury Center or at the Melone property. Quarry North affords the Town the opportunity to negotiate mitigations for these impact, while Sudbury Station does not.

What about the impact to public safety?

Both the Police Chief and Fire Chief believe the Melone location is a safer location for a development of this size. The impact to needs of the police and fire departments will be same regardless of the whether the location is Town Center or Route 117. Moreover, as part of the development agreement negotiation process, we have the opportunity to seek mitigation that will further address any impacts from the Quarry North development—an opportunity that does not exist with respect to the Sudbury Station project.

What about the fire station on Route 117?

Fire Station #3 was built in 1954 and has not been updated. Fire Station #3 will need to be updated primarily to allow for female firefighters and general renovation. The vehicle bay capacity for Fire Station #3 will not need to be increased for Sudbury Station or Quarry North. We are working on getting a quote for this renovation available for Town Meeting but the renovation needs to happen regardless of whether this development is in Town Center or on Route 117.

Will this lead to overrides, an expensive expansion of Fire Station #3 and school overcrowding?

No. The project has a net present value of $17M positive to the Town. School enrollment is flat to declining and the 78-105 students projected for this development across the 13 grades of K-12 is an average of 6-8 students per grade which could be net neutral for overall enrollment depending on the rate of decline of students over the next decade or so. Fire Station #3 (constructed in 1954 needs to be updated anyway. There are no vehicle bay expansions needed at any fire station because of this development whether it is at Sudbury Center or Route 117. With the increased net-positive tax revenue this development will reduce the need for overrides.

Why did we go out to bid?

Massachusetts General Law Chapter 30B requires the Town to solicit proposals in a competitive and structured process for the sale of land. The RFP required the Board to award the contract based on a predetermined ranking to the proposal that is most advantageous to the Town. The Town cannot sell land without going out to bid via the regulated procurement process.

What is the Quarry North Project?

The current Quarry North proposal includes 300 units of rental apartments and 33 senior age-restricted townhomes under a Local Initiative Program (LIP) or “friendly 40B” project. UPDATE 11/19/18: The negotiation team reached an agreement to lower the number of rental units to 274 and increase the number of senior age-restricted units to 80. In exchange for the Melone property, the developer would give the Town $1,000,000 and the 40 acres of land in Town Center where the Sudbury Station project had been proposed. The Sudbury Station 40B project would be withdrawn, the expensive litigation would cease and the Town would be able to preserve the 40 acres in the center of Town and put it to use for the enjoyment of Town residents.

Why did the number of units increase at Quarry North compared to Sudbury Station?

The Sudbury Station location is more attractive for a developer, who could market the units as being walking distance to the Town’s historic center, shops, schools, churches, temples and other amenities. Moreover, the developer has expended significant amounts of money and time in the design and permitting of the Sudbury Station location, and all of this work would have to start over for the Quarry North project. Moreover, as noted above, the developer is paying the Town an additional $1 Million dollars and will have to spend significant additional funds on other mitigation to be negotiated as part of the development agreement and permitting process. The Sudbury Station location would yield a higher real estate return due to its location. Sudbury Center would also likely attract a higher percentage of families with school age children than the Melone location. So, in short, the number of units went up to account for the change in location and the corresponding increased costs and negative impact on real estate value. The number of students at the Melone location will likely be less on a percentage basis than the Sudbury Station location.

Does the town have the opportunity to reduce the number of units at Quarry North?

The negotiations are confidential but there is an opportunity to negotiate aspects of the development such as the number of units or mix of senior versus apartment units.

What happens next?

The Board of Selectmen have entered into negotiations with Quarry North in order to negotiate a Development Agreement before Town Meeting. The Town will vote at Town Meeting on whether to allow the Board of Selectmen to sell the property. This is a 2/3rds vote. If the articles passes at Town Meeting, the project will then go through a comprehensive permit process with the Zoning Board of Appeals, where the project will have even further review and public hearings.

What is a development agreement?

A development agreement is a legally binding contract between a developer and a municipality that dictates the responsibilities and obligations of both parties. The agreement will also contain necessary mitigation to address impact from the development such as increased traffic.

What could be discussed in the development agreement?

Potential items that could be discussed in the development agreement may include traffic mitigation, pedestrian safety, public safety, unit count, types of units, mitigation for schools and other departments, utility and infrastructure improvements, community benefits, etc.

What do the committees, commissions and department heads think?

Many committees, commissions and department heads commented on the three proposals. All Town committees, departments and department heads who provided comments agreed that the Melone Property was the right choice in order to prevent Sudbury Station from being developed in the center of Town and to give the Town the unique opportunity to obtain 40 acres of undeveloped land in the Town Center. You can find all of the comment letters at https://sudbury.ma.us/melone

Should we trust the Quarry North developer based on what happened with the land swap at Sudbury Station?

The Developer had nothing to do with the 2010 land swap between the Town and the former owner of the land. The developer was not a party to that land swap. The Developer has in good faith approached the Town with an idea to end the litigation in Town Center, and has been amenable and agreeable moving forward.

Are we getting an appraisal?

Yes, an appraisal of the Melone property will be available before Town Meeting.

Will there be a traffic study?

Yes, the Town is in the process of conducting its own traffic study, and we are working to have the traffic study results and the preliminary mitigation recommendations available before Town Meeting and incorporated into the development agreement.

Is North Sudbury being treated fairly?

This is the first and only 40B housing development in North Sudbury greater than 2 units. South Sudbury has seven 40B housing developments including Longfellow Glen, Avalon at Meadow Walk and Highcrest at Meadow Walk, Coolidge, Landham Crossing, Carriage Lane, Orchard HIll and Villages at Old County Road all in South Sudbury. Musketaquid Village and Fairbank Circle are in Central Sudbury. The most recent 40B development, 250-unit Avalon and 60 unit Highcrest TownHomes at Meadow Walk, was districted with 100% of the students going to the Loring School. All Town departments and boards agreed that the impacts of 250 units in Town Center would be far worse than at Melone, and the Town has the ability to negotiate impact mitigation for the Quarry North project, whereas it has no such ability if the project stays in Town Center.

Where will all the students go? How many will there be?

SPS will ultimately decide on the placement of students for this new development. Based on actual results for similar developments such as Concord Mews, it is estimated that there will be 78-105 students projected for K-12, with approximately 30-35 projected for elementary school. For the Meadow Walk development on Route 20 in South Sudbury, which included 250 rental apartments and 60 senior age-restricted townhomes, 100% of the students were districted to the Loring School. The Meadow walk development is 75% occupied and is well below the student enrollment projections. SPS had previously planned to split the students from the Sudbury Station development between the Nixon and Noyes districts. The Town did a preliminary fiscal analysis, including a projection for school aged children. The Town is working with the School Department on planning for new students. The analysis can be found here: https://sudbury.ma.us/townmanager/melone-net-present-value-analysis-2018/

What happens after Town Meeting?

If Town Meeting authorizes the sale of the Melone property to Quarry North, there will be still be work to be done. The developer would file with the Department of Housing and Community Development under the Local Initiative Program (LIP). The LIP program encourages Town’s and Developers to work collectively to create housing that works for both parties. A LIP application is in many ways a friendly 40B with the Board of Selectmen submitting a support letter to the state. In most instances, the Town will meet with the developer to work through the aspects of the LIP before an application is submitted. This is different from the regular 40B process, where the Town has little to no control when it is under the 10% affordable housing threshold. The Developer will then need to go through a Comprehensive Permitting Process with the Zoning Board of Appeals and obtain their necessary permits.

Is the land contaminated?

The Town hired GeoInsight to conduct environmental analysis including boring test pits and the results came back negative for TCE contamination or any other dangerous chemicals. Arsenic was detected but would be expected since this property was a former orchard. Over the past three years, the Town has commissioned two studies on the land conditions, including sampling and testing. There will be more testing required before any development can begin but all test results so far do not restrict any uses on the property. The results of those studies can be found here: https://sudbury.ma.us/melone

What is Sudbury Station?

Sudbury Station is a housing development planned for Town Center including 250 unrestricted rental units under a 40B project proposed for a 39.87 acre parcel off Concord Road behind the Town cemetery in the historic Town Center. The project has received criticism from boards, commissions and the Town’s public safety leaders. Traffic and access concerns have been prominent throughout the review of the project. The permit was applied for prior to the Town of Sudbury reaching 40B safe harbor. The Zoning Board of Appeals awarded the comprehensive permit for only 30 units. More information is available here: https://sudbury.ma.us/pcd/?p=759

What is the Sudbury Station litigation?      

The Developer appealed the Zoning Board of Appeals decision to the Housing Appeals Committee. The Town of Sudbury is a defendant in that case and is defending the Zoning Board of Appeal’s decision.

The Town also filed a subsequent lawsuit in Land Court to continue its opposition of the Project. That case was dismissed on summary judgment and the judge declared the case was frivolous, wholly unjustified and with an absence of good faith. The Town was ordered to pay the defendants’ legal fees.

What is our chance of winning these cases?

While the Town would not discuss legal strategy in public, these legal proceedings are an uphill battle. The Housing Appeals Committee tends to favor developers. It is very rare for a town to prevail in the Housing Appeals Committee. The percentage chances of a town prevailing are slim.

If we are at the 10% affordable housing safe harbor, why is 40B still a concern?

At the time of application for the Sudbury Station project, the Town was below the 10 percent threshold. The application was filed prior to the Meadow Walk application. It is the number at the time of application that determines the project eligibility. Since that time, due to Meadow Walk, the Town is now above the 10 percent threshold but stands the risk of falling below that threshold in future years if it does not continue to produce affordable housing. The Quarry North project would still be a 40B project, but would be a friendly 40B with the Town and Developer working together to create the best project for Sudbury. This project would ensure that the Town would be protected from predatory 40B projects for many years to come.

Why did we approve funds to fight Sudbury Station if we were going to move it to Melone?

If we did not approve funds to fight Sudbury Station it would be completed by now, just like Meadow Walk (the applications were filed within a few months of each other). Towns do not fight 40Bs because they think they can win. The chances of a town winning at the HAC are very low. Towns fight 40Bs to delay developments long enough to negotiate a better outcome. That is what the Town is trying to do right now with the Melone property.

What if we think Town Center is a better location for this development than Route 117?

Your voice and every voice is welcome to Town Meeting and the Town looks forward to hearing the respectful debate on this matter.

Who makes the final decision?

The voters of Sudbury make the final decision with a Town Meeting vote, which is scheduled for October 15, 2018. The project will still be contingent on a successful disposition of Water District land and the comprehensive permit process.

What is 40B?

40B is a state law allowing developers to apply for a comprehensive permit to build affordable housing in towns, which have less than 10% of their housing deed-restricted as affordable based on the area median income levels. If a town is under 10% they can deny or try to change a 40B application but the developer has the ability to appeal to the Housing Appeals Committee where they stand in favor of winning. If a town is above 10% they can deny 40B applications without the opportunity for HAC appeal.

If the Quarry North project is approved, will the Town continue to be in 40B safe harbor?

Short answer, yes. However, if no project moves forward, the Town could be vulnerable when the census numbers are recalculated again in 2020 and then again in 2030.

What if Town Meeting votes “no” on the Quarry North proposal?

Then the Town will continue the litigation as long as funds are approved to defend our position at the Housing Appeal Committee and in Land Court. It is important to remember that it is likely that this project will be built at Town Center if it is not built on the Melone property.   No matter the location, there will be impact to schools, Town services and traffic. Only the Melone proposal gives the Town leverage to mitigate those impacts through a development agreement, put measures in place to reduce the impact to the Town and realize substantial benefit by obtaining 40 acres of undeveloped land in the Town Center and an additional $1 Million payment. There will not be mitigation or a development agreement for the Sudbury Station project because it is being built under an adversarial 40B Comprehensive Permit process.